As a pastor of a local church, I think about the Bible a lot. I think about what it says about God, what it says to me, and how I might encourage other people to read it, to take it seriously. In many ways, I’ve devoted my life to helping people participate in the Grand Story of the Bible.
Which is precisely why I was encouraged to read the report that the U.S. Army is directing soldiers to remove a Bible inscription that a vendor etched onto the scopes.*
Not all of my friends agree. Some of them even suggest a vague parallel between the Army’s directive and Nazi Germany. I understand that there are multiple perspectives on the matter, especially since the Bible holds a central position in the Christian faith. With that said, it benefits us all to contemplate its usage in society as a whole. These are the reasons I’d rather not see the Bible on U.S Army gun scopes:
As an American citizen, I’d feel uncomfortable if our soldiers were given government-issued weapons with references from the Quran, or any other religion’s holy book. As groups like The Becket Fund and the ACLJ attest, it is “vital to protect the free expression of all faiths,” and we believe the U.S. Constitution “ensures religious liberty and safeguards human rights and dignity.” I’m thankful that the First Amendment ensures that my children don’t have to embrace the Quran, just as it assures my Muslim neighbors that their children don’t have to embrace the Bible.
As a Christian, inscribing John 8:12 (“I am the light of the world”) and 2 Corinthians 4:6 (“God made his light shine in our hearts”) on the very instrument a soldier uses to stare down another human as he takes their life seems inappropriate. The article I linked to above concludes with a Christian soldier serving in the Army stating that “our mission is to kill the enemy.” It seems offensive to link the mission of Jesus to the mission of killing the enemies of the U.S.
As a missionary, I shudder to think of the implications behind one country’s soldiers claiming the Bible as their own as they mingle it with the act of killing their enemy. It’s hard for people to hear Jesus say, “For God so loved the world” when they know his words are claimed by the weapon that killed their loved one.
As a historian, I understand that the Bible is not a talisman, or a good-luck charm. God doesn’t bless soldiers just because their weapons carry references to His Bible, just as He didn’t bless soldiers just because they carried His ark into battle. God blesses soldiers who honor Him and obey Him. I know a great deal of Christians in the Army, and they all tell me the same thing: the Army is hard place for a Christian. It seems unwise to require thousands of non-Christians to use weapons etched with Bible references to kill their enemies.
As a pastor, I believe that Jesus wants his words etched into our hearts, not our guns. Furthermore, I fear that it’s easy to succumb to the placebo effect when it comes to Bible verses: if we see them referenced in plaques, monuments, and gun scopes it’s easy to tell ourselves that we are a Christian nation. I believe we’re better served by focusing on the Bible’s impact on living hearts instead cold, dead gun metal.
May we honor God’s word with the ways we use it.
*This is a current news story, but the Army dealt with the same issue in 2010.